Pope Francis in Interview with America Magazine Praises Benedict XVI - Discusses Women in the Church - War in Ukraine - Abuse and Other Key Issues

Pope Francis gave an exclusive interview to the Catholic ‘"America Magazine" where he answered a range of questions, including topics regarding the US, Church issues, social issues, the war in Ukraine, the Vatican’s relations with China, and his pontificate.
 Vatican News reported that on November 28th, the US Catholic 'America Magazine' published an interview with Pope Francis, marking the first time that the Pope has agreed to an interview with the editors of an American journal.
The interview was held on November 22 at his Vatican residence at Santa Marta and was conducted in Spanish by five representatives of the American Jesuit magazine including its outgoing editor in chief, Fr. Matt Malone, S.J., and Fr. Sam Sawyer, S.J., the incoming editor in chief. Questions ranged from polarization in the U.S. Church, racism, Church teaching on the ordination of women, the Pope's stance on social issues, the war in Ukraine, the Vatican’s relations with China and his pontificate.
Fr. Malone introduced the interview by asking Pope Francis what makes him so peaceful and happy in his ministry. The Pope answered that being with people has always given him great joy, and that what makes him feel happy is having the assurance that “God is at his side”. “Throughout my life – he said - He has always guided me on His path, sometimes in difficult moments, but there is always the assurance that one does not walk alone”.

Polarization is not Catholic
Pope Francis was then asked by Fr. Sawyer about the growing polarization of political life in the United States and even in the U.S. Catholic Church itself.
The Holy Father warned against the dangers of ideological partisanship in society, but especially within the Church, noting that U.S. society too has some “ideological Catholic groups”. “Polarization is not Catholic“, he stressed. “A Catholic cannot think either-or ( aut-aut) and reduce everything to polarization. The essence of what is Catholic is both-and (et-et)”. He recalled that Jesus went beyond the divisions among the Jews of the time between the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the  Essenes and the Zealots. proposing the Beatitudes, "which are also something different". 
“[ The more polarization there is, the more one loses the Catholic spirit and falls into a sectarian spirit.]”
Bishops and Bishops’ Conferences
Pope Francis was also asked about the growing distance between the Bishops’ Conference and the Catholic faithful in the U.S. on faith and morals. In this regard he emphasized the crucial role of individual bishops, rather than the collective bodies of bishops,  and of their pastoral relation with their flock, noting that Bishops’ Conferences are organizations “meant to assist and unite, a symbol of unity. “Jesus – he said - did not create bishops’ conferences. Jesus created bishops”
“The grace of Jesus Christ is in the relationship between the bishop and his people, his diocese.”
Abortion should not be politicized
On abortion, I can tell you these things, which I’ve said before. In any book of embryology it is said that shortly before one month after conception the organs and the DNA are already delineated in the tiny fetus, before the mother even becomes aware. Therefore, there is a living human being. I do not say a person, because this is debated, but a living human being. And I raise two questions: Is it right to get rid of a human being to resolve a problem? Second question: Is it right to hire a “hit man” to resolve a problem? The problem arises when this reality of killing a human being is transformed into a political question, or when a pastor of the church uses political categories. Sam Sawyer, S.J., listens to Pope Francis. Sam Sawyer, S.J., the incoming editor in chief of America, listens to Pope Francis. (America Media/Antonello Nusca) Each time a problem loses the pastoral dimension (pastoralidad), that problem becomes a political problem and becomes more political than pastoral. I mean, let no one hijack this truth, which is universal. It does not belong to one party or another. It is universal. When I see a problem like this one, which is a crime, become strongly, intensely political, there is a failure of pastoral care in approaching this problem. Whether in this question of abortion, or in other problems, one cannot lose sight of the pastoral dimension: A bishop is a pastor, a diocese is the holy people of God with their pastor. We cannot deal with [abortion] as if it is only a civil matter.
“[ The problem arises when this reality of killing a human being is transformed into a political question, or when a pastor of the Church uses political categories. (…) The sacramental part of the pastoral ministry is in the relationship between the pastor and the people of God, between the bishop and his people.]”
Child abuse is a monstruosity
Pope Francis was then asked about the ongoing abuse crisis in the Church and about concerns over the Vatican's transparency policies in light of new recent cases involving bishops. In this regard, the Pope noted that “since the Church made the decision not to cover up [any more] cases”, progress has been made against the “monstruosity” of child abuse.
He mentioned, in particular, the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church he convened in the Vatican from  21-24 February 2019,  and the creation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors headed by Cardinal Sean O'Malley. 
He recalled that “the leader in taking these decisions was Benedict XVI”, and that this crime “is a ‘new’ problem in its manifestation, but eternal in that it has always existed” in all spheres of society, starting from the family. A point he had already pointed out during the 2019 Vatican Summit on child abuse.
“When honest people see how the Church is taking responsibility for this monstruosity, they understand that the Church is one thing while the abusers who are being punished by the Church are another.”
Pope Francis, therefore, reiterated that the Church is determined “to go forward in taking responsibility for its own sin”, with “seriousness and shame”, and “with equal transparency”.
Everyone knows my stance on the war in Ukraine
The Holy Father was then asked about his position on the war in Ukraine, and specifically on why he is seemingly unwilling to directly criticize Russia, the aggressor.
When I speak about Ukraine, I speak of a people who are martyred. If you have a martyred people, you have someone who martyrs them. When I speak about Ukraine, I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in. Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryati and so on. Certainly, the one who invades is the Russian state. This is very clear. Sometimes I try not to specify so as not to offend and rather condemn in general, although it is well known whom I am condemning. It is not necessary that I put a name and surname. On the second day of the war, I went to the Russian embassy [to the Holy See], an unusual gesture because the pope never goes to an embassy. And there I said to the ambassador to tell [Vladimir] Putin that I was willing to travel on condition that he allowed me a tiny window to negotiate. [Sergey] Lavrov, the foreign minister at a high level, replied with a very nice letter from which I understood that for the time being it was not necessary. Pope Francis is seated with the editors and staff of America, seen from above Pope Francis speaks with editors and staff of America. (America Media/Antonello Nusca) I spoke to President Zelensky three times by phone. And I work in general with receiving lists of prisoners, both civilian prisoners and military prisoners, and I have these sent to the Russian government, and the response has always been very positive. I also thought of traveling, but I made the decision: If I travel, I go to Moscow and to Kyiv, to both, not to one place only. And I never gave the impression that I was covering up the aggression. I received here in this hall, three or four times, a delegation from the Ukrainian government. And we work together. Why do I not name Putin? Because it is not necessary; it is already known. However, sometimes people latch onto a detail. Everyone knows my stance, with Putin or without Putin, without naming him. Why do I not name Putin? Because it is not necessary; it is already known. Tweet this Some cardinals went to Ukraine: Cardinal Czerny went twice; [Archbishop] Gallagher, who is responsible for [relations with] states, spent four days in Ukraine, and I received a report of what he saw; and Cardinal Krajewski went four times. He goes with his van loaded with things and spent last Holy Week in Ukraine. I mean the presence of the Holy See with the cardinals is very strong, and I am in continual contact with people in positions of responsibility. And I should like to mention that there is in these days the anniversary of the Holodomor, the genocide that Stalin committed against the Ukrainians [in 1932-33]. I believe it is appropriate to mention it as a historical antecedent of the [present] conflict. The position of the Holy See is to seek peace and to seek an understanding. The diplomacy of the Holy See is moving in this direction and, of course, is always willing to mediate.
The Church is female
Another issue discussed during the interview was women’s priestly ordination.
The Pope explained that it is a theological question that concerns the ministerial dimension of the life of the Church, "that of the Petrine Church".  However, he said, the  Church "is more than a ministry".  "Apart from the Petrine principle there is another principle that is still more important, that is the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity in the Church, of the woman in the Church, where the Church sees a mirror of herself because she is a woman and a spouse".
The Pope also mentioned a third way: the administrative way.  “I believe we have to give more space to women”, he said, noting that even in the Roman Curia the Church has progressed in giving more responsibilities to women.
“The fact that a woman does not enter into the ministerial life is not a deprivation. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle.”
Criticism of market capitalism drawn from the Gospel
Pope Francis was then asked about his frequent criticisms of market capitalism, for which some call him a Marxist. “I try to follow the Gospel”, the Pope replied. “I am much enlightened by the Beatitudes, but above all by the standard by which we will be judged,” he said,  recalling the Gospel of Matthew 25. ‘I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was in prison, and you visited me. I was sick and you cared for me'.  “Is Jesus a communist, then?” he asked, remarking that the problem that is behind this… "is the socio-political reduction of the Gospel message.”

Dialoguing with China despite slow progress
Finally, Pope Francis was asked about the Vatican’s relations with Communist China, with reference to the 2018 Provisional Agreement
between the Holy See and the and Beijing  on the appointment of Bishops which was  recently renewed, and about his alleged silence on human rights in the People’s Republic of China.
On this point, Pope Francis said:  “It is not a matter of speaking or silence”, but rather if “to dialogue or not to dialogue”.
“With China, I have opted for the way of dialogue” even “if it is slow”, he explained,  citing the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli's Ostpolitik diplomacy during the Cold War  as a “model”.
He also reiterated that Chinese people deserve his respect, because they are people of great wisdom.
“Dialogue is the way of the best diplomacy. With China I have opted for the way of dialogue. It is slow, it has its failures, it has its successes, but I cannot find another way. And I want to underline this: The Chinese people are a people of great wisdom and deserve my respect and my admiration.”